Since it was established, the work of the Inorganic Nanoparticles Group has been geared around the preparation, manipulation and applications of engineered inorganic nanoparticles (NPs). Our research work stands on three pillars: synthesis (the creation of the NPs), conjugation and functionalization, and finally applications of NPs.
Synthesis has always been the hard core of our laboratory. We have extended our initial expertise from typical Co, Fe, CeO2 and Au to other NPs, mainly: Ag, CdSe, Pt, TiO2, and SiO2. Our group has at this point a highly skilled expertise on NP synthesis, including size control and a high degree of monodispersity. Additionally, we have been working on the shape control of platinum nanocrystals, we have studied the self-assembly mechanism of magnetic (cobalt) nanoparticles, and the formation of hollow structures, bi- and tri-metallic alloys, and the formation of rod-shaped NPs (nanorods/nanowires). Moreover, characterization plays a key role in the preparation of NPs, and so it is a fundamental piece of our work, through multiple techniques: Z-potential, UV-Vis, DLS, TEM, SEM, etc., even X-ray and high energy diffraction/scattering techniques.
During the synthetic process, or when exposed to different media and working environments, the inorganic NPs get coated with organic molecules, that is, intended or unintended conjugation or functionalization. This fact can be exploited to control the size, structure, and shape of the inorganic core, its stability and the minimal interparticle distance upon collapse. On the other hand, purposely linking an active molecule to an inorganic surface, while still in solution, allows the modification of the molecule activity. Our group then pursues also the design of NP-organic molecule conjugates, aiming to take advantage of both the controlled properties of the inorganic core and the controlled properties of the coating molecules. And of course, characterization and in vitro testing play also a key role in this task.
In such scenario, one can use the magnetic, optical, electrical or structural properties of an inorganic core which interacts with the environment through its organic coating. In many senses, NPs can be artificially designed structures that play in the same ground than proteins and macromolecules, thus NP conjugates can be shipped to do or to witness and report things in biological systems. At the same time, due to their reduced size, unique quantum effects emerge and their large surface-to-volume ratio becomes predominant, offering new features that can be taken advantage of. Overall, these ideas naturally have many applications, not only in physical chemistry, but actually in materials science, biology, and even medicine. Indeed, the technology of nanomaterials has already opened up a new revolutionary multidisciplinary research playground.